With only a few days left in the season, I’m going to take a crack at handicapping the AL Awards.
As I wrote earlier in the week, I think Trout finally wins his first MVP award this season. According to SI, Trout has slashed .352/.486/.741 in his last 17 games with 10 extra-base hits. You could make a case for what Victor Martinez has done this season in Detroit; and the same could be said for Michael Brantley in Cleveland and Nelson Cruz in Baltimore. In fact, Brantley might be the only player hotter than Trout lately (.436 batting average in September). But I think these guys are all vying for 2nd and 3rd place votes. This award is Trout’s, the first of many.
The incredible season of Jose Altuve deserves recognition as well. The diminutive Astros 2B leads the majors in batting average and base hits — a team record 222 hits (and counting) — while ranking 2nd in the big leagues with 56 stolen bases. At 24, Altuve looks poised to be the elder statesman of Houston’s youth movement. If you ask me, you’d be hard pressed to find a better building in the middle infield right now.
AL Cy Young
I’m going to say that if Chris Sale hadn’t spent a month on the disabled list this season, he’d be the runaway favorite for this award. The Pale Hose lefty limited batters to a .205 batting average and a 2.17 ERA, which is the best in the American League. Over 174 innings, Sale struck out a whopping 208 batters with a 0.97 WHIP. At 25, Sale could be the AL’s answer to Clayton Kershaw by this time next year. Check back in and we’ll see.
The only other AL pitcher to match Sale’s dominance this season is Mariners’ righty Felix Hernandez. In 230 innings, King Felix has a 2.34 ERA with 241 strikeouts and a 0.94 WHIP. In fact, if it weren’t for his last start (4 2/3 IP, 8 ER) which raised Hernandez’s ERA 27 points, this would be as easy as the MVP discussion. But Hernandez’s stinkbomb start in Toronto opens the door for another contender.
Indians’ ace Corey Kluber has been dominant this season: 17 wins, a 2.53 ERA with 258 strikeouts and a 1.10 WHIP in 227 innings pitched. If you didn’t see that coming, welcome to the club. Kluber was on quite a few sleeper lists developed by industry prognosticators this spring, but no one could have predicted he’d be this good this soon. His numbers look more comparable to Hernandez’s now, but in the end, I think the edge goes to King Felix and his sparkling 0.94 ratio.
AL Rookie of the Year
Jose Abreu basically put this award to bed in April. In my estimation, it’s always a little odd that MLB counts international imports as “rookies” on par with the 23 year old backup third baseman fresh off the bus from Pawtucket. But until the rules change, Abreu qualifies for the award and he should win in a landslide.
A pair of Yankee pitchers also deserve special mention. Masahiro Tanaka was pitching like an ace before his injury and he was the only realistic competition to Abreu for this award. It looks like Tanaka’s DL stint did the trick and that’s a good thing; I’d hate to see him become the latest casualty of Tommy John surgery this season. (Hasn’t it seemed like an epidemic this year?) Flame-throwing righty Dellin Betances became the most celebrated Yankee setup man since Joba Chamberlain (anybody remember the Joba Rules?).
I’ll turn my attention toward the National League tomorrow.